The Doobie Brothers – Toulouse Street (1972)
Welcome back to YDCS! I’ve been excited to cover another Doobie Brothers album since I covered the one last year. When they announced that their North American tour will stop near me this year, I immediately put on their greatest hits album and decided two things: First, I need to see the Doobie Brothers this summer at all costs, especially now that they’re being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Class of 2020!) and secondly, I need to review another Doobie Brothers album! This week we’re taking a listen to the band’s second studio album, Toulouse Street. Toulouse Street was the album that completed the original Doobies lineup with the addition of their second drummer, Michael Hossack. After this, the band would go on to keep two drummers in the rhythm section and complete their signature sound with two drummers, three guitarists, keyboard, and kicking vocal harmonies!
Although it’s technically a folk rock album, Toulouse Street includes influences from southern rock, blues rock, and swamp rock. This would normally create a muddied and non-cohesive sound across the record, but by including multiple songs with pieces of each style, they tie the album together neatly. There are a few instances of songs referencing the styles of earlier songs on the album that help create a consistent theme across the album. Toulouse Street has a little bit of everything; softer rock songs, hard rockers that would be at home on a Led Zeppelin album, Caribbean influences, and the best harmonies in classic rock. I hope you enjoy this entry from these soon-to-be Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees!
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
Listen to the Music: 10/10. Period. There’s really nothing I love more in a song than a soft rock sound with great vocal harmonies that makes you keep coming back for more. It’s not a complex song, but I would rate it higher amongst my all-time favorites than a lot of the prog rock songs that dare to be bold and make statements on society and music itself. This song just wants you to sit back and listen to the music, and the simplicity and earnestness shines through giving me goosebumps every time it comes on. Dad’s Rating 10/10
Rockin’ Down the Highway: If the harmonies on “Listen to the Music” are good then they’re seemingly better on “Rockin’ Down the Highway.” The Doobies were known for their harmony and it’s really tight and very difficult to get right. This is another one of the band’s big hits and it deserves all of the airplay that it gets. It’s classic California Rock and I love it. Add this one to the road trip playlist and rock on down the highway. Dad’s Rating 9/10
Mamaloi: This was my first time listening to “Mamaloi” and I was surprised that they decided to put a reggae, almost Swamp Rock fusion track on the album. It definitely has roots in the Caribbean but could easily be found in New Orleans and plays into the theme of Toulouse Street well. This is an interesting song that’s worth checking out just to hear a good way to combine to genres that don’t see a lot of crossover. Dad’s Rating 6/10
Toulouse Street: It’s really a shame that the title track is pretty boring. “Toulouse Street” would be forgettable if it weren’t also the name of the album. I think this one’s worth skipping. You won’t miss anything. Dad’s Rating 4/10
Cotton Mouth: “Cotton Mouth” is one of the few hidden gems on Toulouse Street for me. It doesn’t get much attention and I don’t think it ends up in many live sets, but it has a really cool funk groove that is notably absent from other songs on the record. It hints at what musical direction the band might move towards over the next few albums and as will incorporated. Dad’s Rating 7/10
Don’t Start Me to Talkin’: “Don’t Start Me to Talkin’” is a solid southern rocker that holds its own against songs from acts like Marshall Tucker Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, despite the fact that the band was more focused on creating a soft rock sound. This is largely due in part to the fact that the Doobie’s brand of rock was still heavily blues-inspired, much like traditional southern rock acts. This is a good song that doesn’t get a whole lot of love. Give it a listen! Dad’s Rating 7/10
Jesus Is Just Alright with Me: In a contemporary context people often mistake the meaning behind the lyrics on “Jesus Is Just Alright,” but if you go back to the early 1970s, this song would have had a completely different meaning. This made use of the phrase “all right” to say that something is cool and was a popular song with counterculture Christians. Musically, this is one of my favorite songs by the Doobies. The contrast between the harder rock start of the song, the calmer bridge, and the hard rock finish is exceptionally well done and the instrumentation across the song is some of the best on the record. I would take the time to point out something that I don’t always highlight, “Jesus Is Just Alright” has great balance, and that’s what makes it such a great song for me. It’s incredibly multi-dimensional and shines in many different ways with every part of the band contributing to make a huge sound. Dad’s Rating 9/10
White Sun: “White Sun” is a nice, peaceful song sandwiched between two major rockers. The vocal harmonies are beautiful and well-crafted and play nicely off of the soft acoustic guitar. I had never listened to this track before this album review, but I can say with confidence that, despite its softer sound, it will stay in my Doobie Brothers rotation. It’s worth a listen just to hear a different side of the band, especially considering the band normally combines their hallmark harmonies with faster tempo songs. Dad’s Rating 6/10
Disciple: My second hidden gem song from the album, “Disciple.” This straight rock track strays pretty significantly from the softer folk rock sound that dominates the album. “Disciple” features really lyrical guitar solos and the dual drumming style that the band came to be recognized for plays out really well with a standard driving drum kit and conga drums that harken you back to songs like “Mamaloi.” The song doesn’t abandon what the Doobies do best and keeps some vocal harmonies and some softer sections to tie the song back to the rest of the album. A lot of elements come together cleanly on this track, both older and newer. Dad’s Rating 7/10
Snake Man: “Snake Man” is an interesting way to the end the album. It betrays the folk rock sound that defines most of the album for a more southern rock inspired sound like “Don’t Start Me to Talkin’.” It’s also the shortest song on the record, but it packs a lot into a two-minute long song. The acoustic guitar work is hypnotizingly interesting and incorporates a neat, very precise picking technique. This is a nice way to close out the album and show just another example of the Doobie’s ability to blend multiple genres into a cohesive album. Dad’s Rating 6/10
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